Ashley Donald – April 2020
Over the course of the last month and a half, MDW Law has been keeping you updated on all things COVID-related. We heard from Christine Doucet regarding parenting during COVID 19 and Kim Johnson provided a fulsome overview of parenting cases in Canada and the UK. At the time of Kim’s review, we did not yet have a parenting during COVID case in Nova Scotia.
Now we do.
The Honourable Justice Lee Anne McLeod-Archer heard the matter of McNeil v. Christie, 2020 NSSC 145 on April 17, 2020. The judge indicates at the outset that Her Ladyship reviewed correspondence from the applicant and decided the matter met the threshold of “emergency” or “urgent”.
The parties had a young son. The respondent father had been exercising supervised parenting time as a result of abusive behaviours. The child lived primarily with the applicant mother. In the recent months leading up to the emergency matter, the respondent had only just transitioned to unsupervised parenting time. The respondent had not been granted overnight parenting time – only daytime visits.
On April 9, 2020, the respondent had care of the child for daytime parenting only. The respondent refused to return the child to the applicant’s care following his parenting time. The applicant sought the child’s return.
The respondent told the applicant he was keeping the child to quarantine in his home because “someone had coughed near the child” and the applicant’s partner returned from another province on April 5, 2020 and did not self-isolate for 14 days.
The applicant argued she needed childcare assistance from her partner because she was engaged in an online nursing program, so it was not practical for him to self-isolate.
The judge returned the child to the applicant’s primary care as of April 19, 2020, which provided the applicant’s partner a full 14 days since his return to Nova Scotia to self-isolate away from the child. The respondent’s in-person parenting time was suspended until further review of the court. Instead, the respondent was to have telephone/facetime/skype video calls twice per week to be supervised by the applicant.
The judge found the applicant’s partner returning to their home without self-isolating for 14 days was not reasonable given the circumstances.
The judge also found the respondent “manufactured a reason to keep the child with him, taking advantage of the current covid-19 health directives”. The judge found the respondent did so because he felt he should have been granted overnight and extended parenting time with the child, and because he learned the applicant’s partner was living with her and the child.
Justice McLeod-Archer found one parent chose to take advantage of the current health directives and withheld the child to further his own agenda, even though there were some risks of exposure to Covid-19 in the primary home. Once the 14 day risk window passed, the child was return to the primary care parent, and the parent who initially withheld the child had his in-person parenting time suspended until further order of the court.
If you have questions about parenting during Covid-19, reach out to an MDW Law family lawyer at 902.422.5881 or firstname.lastname@example.org.